Recently, I was given the opportunity to run a small boutique to sell all the clothes that no longer fitted due to the weight I’ve lost. I had been five different sizes in the previous year so I had no problem filling a shop. As much as I adore fashion and dressing up, as with so much in life, it was an element that I had not anticipated that ended up fascinating me the most. Like this magazine, the shop told part of my story which prompted many other customers to reveal a little of theirs.
It seems to me, everyone has in them things wishing to be expressed (including in my direct experience, a body which wants to be expressed in a certain way). Put to one side to manage all manner of obligations, our essential essence gradually recedes until, before we know it, we are like a ship far away at sea wondering how we got here.
One day a customer came in – her young eyes bright and dazzling, set into a perfectly made-up face, fabulously framed by an amazing Russian style faux fur hat. She was taking, as so many of us do in youth, a front row seat in life. I nearly laughed out loud at the joy of someone so lit up, so alive, so engaged. Hers was makeup that time had been spent on, other things were pushed aside for that. She was a vivid contrast to the following customer, a woman in her early 50s who told me that she had not bought a dress for twenty years. She preferred to wear grey so that she could be invisible, unnoticed and fade into the background. Ground down and untethered from who she really was – there would have been a time when she delighted in buying herself something pretty, but that time was long gone. (You’ll be pleased to know she did buy herself a beautiful deep pink day dress which lit her up). Then finally, a lady in her 80s whose favourite colours were, to use her exact words, black, grey and sludge.
We would all be so much happier if we were surrounded by people being who they really were, rather than who they think they have to or ought to be
This, as the old line goes, got me thinking – is the journey from the jewel like dazzle of youth, via 30 something dark skinny jeans and trainers, to invisible middle age grey-taupe to sludge inevitable? Is it the same process as with underwear that just gets higher and higher until, in your 90s your knickers are under your chin so that when you die they just tie them up at the top and bury you? Why do we insist on getting up and moving to worse seats in life? The answer is of course, we tell ourselves stories about who we are. Our mind, like an annoying passenger yabbering on the phone on a train, incessantly bangs on. You’re too old, too poor, too far gone (favourite one that), busy (another favourite) or whatever your particular type of mind trash is. Meanwhile your essential self, that sane being that dwells in all of us, politely puts up with it. The tragedy is, we would all be so much happier if we were surrounded by people being who they really were, rather than who they think they have to or ought to be.
The good news is, you can find your way back and amazingly, it does not even take that long. What I know now is that when you get back, just like anyone who has been lost, you appreciate everything about coming home so much more.